How to Sound Like a Local When You Move to Richmond

Al Harris
March 13, 2018
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Welcome to Richmond. River City. Fist City. Richmond upon the James. Dirty Richmond.

Whatever you call it, the Virginia capital is steeped in history and is known for its world class arts scene, music, food, yada, yada, yada. If you are moving here or visiting, you probably know all that already.

But if want to learn how to blend in and sound like a local, we got you covered.

Y’all are welcome


If you are traveling south on I-95 from the Northeast, we are pretty much the first major city where “y’all” is the preferred expression for addressing a group of two or more people.

Don’t panic Yankee, unsweet tea is still widely available.

The Mosque

While it has been renamed a couple of times, most native Richmonders still know the performing arts venue at 6 N. Laurel Street as The Mosque. Built in the 1920s by the Shriners in the Moorish Revival style, the theater was renamed the Landmark Theater in 1995. In 2014, it was renamed The Altria Theater.

The Byrd

Speaking of theaters built in the Roaring Twenties, The Byrd Theatre is where Richmonders go when they want to check out a cheap second run movie. Located in the Carytown shopping district, this movie palace is one of the classiest places to see a movie for $1.99.

Pony Pasture

Despite the name, you will find no ponies and there is no pasture. You will find one of the most popular swimming spots in the city.

Texas Beach

Not in Texas, and not really a beach either. Another popular swimming spot along the James River, but with more open containers and public nudity.

The Fan

The Fan District is a neighborhood so-called because the direction of the streets spread out in a fan shape westward from downtown. It is home to one of the country’s largest concentrations of 19th century housing.

It is also home to your future favorite neighborhood bar.

Surrounding Locales

Most of Richmond’s surrounding locales are pretty easy to pronounce. It’s not to hard to wrap your tongue around Henrico County, although some real country folk might call it Hen-rye-ka.

Chesterfield County is straightforward to, but you should take heed of its nickname, Arresterfield, and slow down when you pass through.

Powhatan County is simply pronounced Pow-tan by locals.

Some people in Mechanicsville call it The Ville to make it seem fancier than it is, but they aren’t fooling anybody.

Midlo is short for Midlothian.

Know Your Acronyms

Richmonders love their acronyms. Here are the most essential ones decoded:

RVA: Richmond, VA. Marketers love the shorthand and you will see it attached to scores of local businesses.

CCV: Country Club of Virginia. If you aren’t OMR (Old Money Richmond), don’t worry about it.

ABC: Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. State-owned “ABC” stores are the only place to buy liquor, but you can buy beer and wine at grocery stores and gas stations.

VMFA: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, home to one of the largest art collections in the country

VCU: Virginia Commonwealth University. Famous musical alumni: GWAR.

UR: University of Richmond. Famous musical alum: Lil Dicky.

RIC: Richmond International Airport

RIR: Richmond International Raceway. Welcome to NASCAR country.

PBR: People’s Beer of Richmond. Seriously, our bars are regularly among the number one sellers of the red white and blue-canned beer in the country, making the city one of the top markets for per capita consumption of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Hell Block

The 1100 block of West Grace Street is notorious for disorderly college parties. Things may have toned down a bit from its peak notoriety, but the name still sticks.

Powhite Parkway

This major tollway connects the city to parts of Chesterfield. The name comes from the creek that the road follows and is Native American in origin. While it is properly pronounced POW-hite, everybody pronounces it Po-White.

I know, I know, but that’s just the way it is.


What is today Richmond was actually two cities. Manchester was a separate city on the south side of the James River, but was annexed by Richmond in 1910.  Manchester is now just another neighborhood, but its nickname Dogtown is still in use by old school Richmonders.

Richmond would go on to annex large swaths of Chesterfield to make up the rest of Southside Richmond, which I believe is properly pronounced SOUTH-SIIIIIIIIDE!!

Nickel Bridge

Many Richmonders call the Boulevard Bridge, the Nickel Bridge, but don’t be fooled. The toll bridge will actually cost you seven nickels. Built in 1925, it really did used to cost five cents.


For decades Ukrop’s ruled Richmond’s grocery market. The first store opened in 1937 and would eventually grow to 26 stores. The company sold to Giant-Carlisle in 2010 and all the stores became Martin’s.

Even though Ukrop’s is no more, people still can’t shut up about their White House Rolls and rainbow cookies, which you can order online. Some people still hold a grudge against the Ukrop family for getting Howard Stern removed from local syndication back in the day. 


Bum is our local slang word “great” or “high-quality”, possibly derivative of saying something is “bomb” or “the bomb”. As in “That concert at The National was bum.” or  “Lee’s Chicken is way bummer than Church’s.”

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